Chester, Illinois….the Home of Popeye the Sailor Man! We are very proud of our association with this iconic, Guinness record holding cartoon character! In 1977 a bronze statue of Popeye was erected in honor of our hometown boy (creator of Popeye) Elzie C. Segar at the Segar Memorial Park, which is also home to our Chester Welcome Center. Almost three decades later the “Popeye & Friends Character Trail” was established as a multi-year plan to enhance tourists’ enjoyment of Popeye and his family. Every year granite statues representing the wide cast of characters that populated Segar’s Thimble Theatre cartoon strip are added to the trail throughout Chester. Pictured below are the characters and a map where they can be found. In the Fall of 2020 QR Codes were installed on all of the statues so visitors can now access additional information on each character by using your smart phones. To learn a bit more about Popeye visit the KFS website at Popeye history. You can stay current with all the latest news regarding our Popeye and Friends Character Trail by clicking on this Facebook link.
ELZIE CRISLER SEGAR was born December 8,1894 in Chester, Illinois. He worked as a youth at the local Opera House and showed an early talent for illustrating. He took a mail order cartooning course and eventually joined Hearst Syndicate as an artist. Segar created “THIMBLE THEATRE” under their tutelage … a comic strip that featured cartoon characters posing as “actors” in daily skits. Eventually the strip centered upon the misadventures of the Oyl family until Popeye took center stage following his Jan. 17, 1929 debut. Elzie Segar passed away on Oct. 13, 1938 at the young age of 43. His incredible legacy has grown to a Guinness World Record holding phenomena of iconic proportions!
Donations started pouring in for the next statue “Olive Oyle, Swee’ Pea and Jeep” and was unveiled during the Popeye Picnic festivities in 2007 and stands downtown near the Randolph County Courthouse – once again with donations engraved on the base.
During the 29th Annual Popeye Picnic (2008) festivities Bluto (the hard-headed brute) was erected at the corner of Swanwick Street and W. Holmes Street near the Buena Vista Bank parking lot area.
For the 30th Annual Popeye Picnic Festival (2009) Castor Oyl and Whiffle Hen were erected at Chester Memorial Hospital after the parade.
In 2012 Alice the Goon greets citizens as they drive into Chester Center, located on Lehmen Drive (Route 3 North).
Another statue was erected at Cohen Recreational Complex during the Popeye Picnic weekend festivities in September 2013. Meet Poopdeck Pappy!!
In September of 2014 during the 35th Annual Popeye Picnic Festivities themed “Get An Edjamication” Professor Watasnozzle stands tall on the front lawn of the Chester High School located at 1901 Swanwick Street.
2015’s statue is “Rough House” and
is erected in front of Reid’s Harvest House
Restaurant at 2440 State Street. Check out
the statue and get a great bite to eat!!!
Chester Community Grade School located on Opdyke Street is the resting spot on the character trail for the The “Nephews” during the 37th annual Popeye Picnic. (2016)
Chester’s City Hall was the location in 2017 and was placed during the 38th Annual Popeye Picnic!! King Blozo sits outside in the front yard of City Hall located at 1330 Swanwick Street.
The next statue to arrive! (2018). Nana Oyl is located at Manor at Craig Farms, 3030 State Street, Chester.
Popeye’s Pups arrived in September of 2019. They keep watch over the Chester Fire Department.
SHERLOCK & SEGAR- Elzie Segar had a compelling passion for the literary detective, Sherlock Holmes. He introduced hundreds of deerstalkered detectives into Thimble Theatre, and in the late-1930s, was working on a stand-alone Sherlockian detective release when he passed away at the young age of 43. His new project was never pursued by Hearst Syndicate. We have clothed our statue of Segar in the full regalia of his favorite sleuth in honor of his unfinished work. (Erected 2019 at Baskerville Hall) Located on Swanwick Street.
Even though the Popeye Picnic was cancelled for 2020 like everything else, a new statue was still placed in November! “Toar” sits near the St. Nicholas Landmark on Ferry Street. Great photo op here!!
Harold Hamgravy!! It’s located on the corner of State Street and Taylor Street near Fisher, Kerkhover, Coffey, & Gremmels Law Offices and was erected during the Chester Fall Festival October 16, 2021!
Coming for 2022 during Popeye’s Fall Festival weekend, OSCAR, Popeye’s comedic friend, will welcome visitors at Cole Memorial Park and stand near our Disc Golf Course’s hole #1.